update deskIsrael at War

Amid anti-Netanyahu protests, Lapid to meet Blinken, Schumer in Washington

Before departing, the opposition leader blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the "collapse" of Israel-U.S. relations.

Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid speaks to supporters in Tel Aviv after winning the party's leadership primary, March 28, 2024. Credit: Flash90.
Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid speaks to supporters in Tel Aviv after winning the party's leadership primary, March 28, 2024. Credit: Flash90.

Israeli opposition Leader Yair Lapid headed to Washington, D.C., on Saturday night, where he is slated to meet with senior Biden administration officials.

Lapid is to hold discussions with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

In an interview with Channel 12 before departing, Lapid blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what he described as a “collapse” in relations with the United States, suggesting that the damage could be irreversible.

Last week, Lapid told a rally outside the Knesset that he is seeking to “establish another government in a few weeks. As long as we are a democracy, there is a tool that can change reality. It is called elections. Election now!”

For his part, Schumer prompted an uproar in mid-March by effectively calling for the replacement of Netanyahu, who he implied was the main obstacle to a “healthy and open decision-making process” about the future of the Jewish state.

In a speech on the Senate floor that Schumer described as a “major address,” the Jewish senator labeled some of Netanyahu’s senior Cabinet members “bigots” and “extremists” and called for new elections.

Schumer claimed that he was speaking on behalf of “mainstream Jewish Americans” to represent their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He suggested that Washington should condition or cut off military aid to Jerusalem unless a new government is formed.

While lawmakers across the political spectrum slammed the speech as constituting interference in the democratic process of Washington’s closest Middle East ally, Lapid said that Schumer had proven that “one by one, Netanyahu is losing the staunchest supporters of Israel. What’s worse is, he is doing it on purpose. Netanyahu is causing serious damage to the national effort to win the war and maintain Israel’s security.”

Last week, War Cabinet Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz said at a press conference in Jerusalem that Israel should go to the polls in September, marking the first time that the left-wing politician has called for early elections since joining the government six months ago.

Gantz issued his call following large anti-government protests in Jerusalem in which protesters called to “burn down the country” and tried to storm Netanyahu’s official residence, and less than a month after meeting with officials in Washington and London against the wishes of Netanyahu, who ordered Israel’s American and British embassies not to assist with the visits.

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